The Four Freedoms

At the Hirshhorn Museum are the above four images and the following text:

In his 1941 State of the Union address, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt outlined his vision for a post-war world. One in which four freedoms, freedom of speech, freedom from fear, freedom from want and freedom of speech, would become basic human rights for all. In 1943, artist Norman Rockwell responded patriotically with a series of four paintings depicting those freedoms. In 2018, the artists Hank Willis Thomas and Emily Shur reimagined these paintings and updated those images to more accurately reflect today’s more diverse US population.

I’ve always been a big Rockwell fan and enjoy this reinterpretation of his work. 

Last year, a New Yorker cartoon had the following caption, “Up in the sky. It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s the good billionaire.” This was a reference to former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, who had launched a campaign for the Democratic nomination. He was a late arrival to the Democratic field and was initially derisively dismissed, out of hand. Now, I see his anti-Trump TV commercials every night. With a worth valued at $56B, Bloomberg can easily out spend the Republicans, by five to one. New York magazine columnist Jonathan Chait opined this week, “Winning the presidential election is starting to look hard. How about buying it instead?” 

Back on the ranch, Anne restarted her Early Childhood Center’s first grade gig this week, after the long Christmas break. ECC or more correctly Eck!, is now showing its true colors as plague central. On Monday she sent home a letter to the parents on the subject of head lice. Latter in the week, she sent home a letter regarding strep throat. Yesterday, after one of her students tested positive for influenza, a third letter was dispatched regarding the flu. So, what’s next? How about freedom from illness. Until then, she will go to work every morning, singing the praises of her nineteen (or less) little dwarves, Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s off to the plague I go. Heigh-ho…


Window Shopping, Michael Bedard, 1970

In the run-up to Sunday evening’s rock concert, Anne had been busy fretting about how she would ever be able to cover all of the curriculum that she wanted to, before Christmas break. Especially, if there were any scheduling impacts, like due to weather. She must have been communicating some of her concerns to her colleagues, because one of them remarked that they would have thought that a long-term substitute would gladly welcome any snow days. That person had not reckoned with Anne’s dedication. Another teacher observed on Facebook, that the combination of a full moon, followed by Friday the 13th, followed by the week before Christmas, is what we call a teacher’s true-terror trifecta.

After the concert, as soon as we were safely home, Anne received a text from her principal, announcing today’s school cancelation. Snow Day! This seemed a little surprising, since the roads were not that bad, but who am I, the retired guy, to complain? My commute is only from the bed to the couch. The un-shoveled U-City sidewalks were treacherous, but that’s no reason to cancel class, but winter storm Finley was not done with us. It snowed almost all day Monday. I won’t bother you with any accumulation totals, besides what’s in a number? Some of my more northern readers would only scoff at the length, I mean depth of our snowfall anyway. Finley seems especially tailored to make I-70 travel difficult and likely won’t even impact any of those snowier than thou sceptics.

Submitting to the inevitable, with her curriculum’s schedule blown out of the water, Anne switched gears from school work to craft work. She has umpteen million projects, all simultaneously underway. She is so busy now that even though she is home for a change, it still feels like I’m home all alone. Oh well, the sun will come out tomorrow.

Raging Strife

Bayou Backroad

Pictured is Anne bicycling along a backwater bayou in Louisiana. This is from earlier this year. Getting her Cajun on. This particular roadway had been freshly tarred and the pavement was like butter. A departure from the condition of most of Louisiana’s streets. They have a saying, “In England, they drive on the left side of the road. Here in Louisiana, we drive on what’s left of the road.”

I picked this picture to accompany this post’s title, which she first coined. Not that she is mad or anything. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, I offer you some testimonials from members of her 1st grade class. One of the Specials teachers had asked the kids to write her thank you notes, in honor of Thanksgiving next week. The Teacher’s Collective had already decided that no one would be doing Indian headdresses or paper bag vests this year, but surely hand-turkeys are still considered PC? I’m sure that their spelling will improve.

  • I am graetful for your keg nice [kindness] Mrs. R
  • Ms. R I am thankful because you are fune [funny]!
  • Msr. R I’m gratful for you because you are kind.
  • Mis. R, I am so gratfl for you because you help us lrne [learn]. 

In other news, it has begun and sooner than I had expected. This morning, the water company came a knocking on our front door. They asked, if we could move our Prius, so that they could park their enormous rig in front of our house. I had noticed them working down the block, earlier in the morning. It being a Saturday and that it was raining, I figured that a water main leak had sprung. I launched into my normal drill, getting the dishes done and filling pots with water, all in anticipation of the inevitable water shutoff. I even risked a shower, but only a very quick one. As it turned out this crew was surveying the laterals.

Looking for lead pipes. Their rig comprised a dump truck pulling a trailer, on which sat a huge Ditch Witch device that I came to understand is a giant vacuum cleaner. Working in pairs, one man would loosen the soil with a pole, while his partner maneuvered a long hose to suck out all the dirt. I wonder if they do carpets too? What we are left with are two postholes covered by orange cones.

The good news is that we don’t have lead pipes. Surprisingly, it is copper. I’m surprised because when we bought the house all of our interior piping was galvanized. I had had that replaced with copper years ago, mostly. Some remains on the other side of the meter and disappears into the front wall. I just assumed that it was all galvanized to the main. What I think now is that like our sewer line, up to ten feet in front of the building line was put in by the developer and the utilities handled the rest, but who knows. Some day I will find out, but I’m not looking forward to doing that. It will be expensive.

Update: A second rig has appeared after lunch. They are filling in the holes dug by the previous crew. “Just because Bob’s not here to plant the trees, is no reason that the rest of us shouldn’t get paid.” 🙂


Maltese Falcon?

Imagine my disappointment this morning, when I realized that today was only Thursday and not yet Friday. I was driving Anne to school at the time and she found my distress humorous. Why should I, the retired guy, care which day of the week it was, since for me every day is Saturday? Well, I have not been retired so long that I cannot remember the joy of anticipating the weekend. Besides, I still have a job of sorts. With only one car, I regularly drive Anne the couple of klicks to school and back. I’m like a school bus driver, carrying Anne and the school bus full of 1st graders in her head.

The other day she told me that I was lucky. She had planned to draft my help in assisting her with a classroom science project. I was lucky, because the great state of Missouri in its infinite wisdom now requires that all school volunteers must undergo a background check. Apparently, a child was abused by a volunteer, while the teacher was also in the classroom. This new law involves fingerprinting and also pertains to parents. I have undergone numerous background checks in my life, but none of them count, because this one has to be unclassified. I’m sure that having to troop on down to the police station and then wait who knows how long is going to encourage volunteerism. Like she said, I was lucky, but unfortunately the children were not so lucky.

¹ Navel gazing — Apparently, it was once a meditative discipline, before it devolved into the self-indulgent self contemplation that it is today.

Make Like a Tree and Leave

Make Like a Tree and Leave


It looks like Dr. David will be “graduating” from Harvard and getting a job-job at MathWorks, makers of the popular scientific software package MATLAB. His offer is still contingent upon background and reference checks, but his fourth interview on Friday went well and he should be good to go. With this new job, he will remain in Boston and enjoy a nice pay bump. He’ll no longer need to do math just for food anymore. With this move he will be leaving academia, which for him has spanned thirteen years and encompassed study and work at Rochester, NIH, Purdue and Harvard. We wish him well as he departs the ivory tower and enters the real world, where I’m sure that he will do very well.

Meanwhile back here on the farm, Ma and Pa Kettle are making last minute preparations for the imminent arrival of Jay and Carl. Jay has a conference in town and will combine business with pleasure and extend their visit and do some sightseeing. Too bad the Cards couldn’t provide any face-to-face baseball.

Watch-a, Watch-a

Space Orks

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Dave and I used to play Warhammer 40K, with figures just like those pictured above. He texted me this photo, which coincided with Anne finding in the news that there has been a shooting in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn (4 dead, 7 shot). Dan lives in this neighborhood. Her motherly concern caused her to reach out to eldest her son and ask for proof-of-life. Not immediately getting an answer, she continued worrying and soon tried again. I checked the news and discovered that the shootings occurred at a gambling parlor, on a cross street near Dan. Eventually, he got back to us and everything was alright. Dave is with him in NYC this weekend and they are at a gaming parlor, playing Warhammer. They are playing for points, so no gambling is involved and hopefully no gunplay either. We really shouldn’t worry so much, NYC is safer than Saint Louis is these days.

Anne has been dissecting owl pellets at school. An owl pellet is something that owls cough up from their gizzard. Usually, they are composed of indigestible components of the prey that they feed on and comprise things like bones, feathers and bits of fur. Sounds truly disgusting, right? That’s what the third graders thought at first, but they got into it and soon took to the task with relish. She claims that she never touched any of the pellets, but instead used tweezers and toothpicks to examine them. The kids ended up doing most of the work anyway and Anne washer her hands afterwards. According to Anne, on a continuum of grossness, owl pellets are less gross than dead mice found while opening the cabin for the summer and way less gross than phlegm. I’m sure youth wanted to know. We’re planning on getting our flu shots this week, because although it is unlikely one would ever catch anything from owl pellets, there are plenty of other sources of disease in the third grade.